Offenders: Sentencing

Ministry of Justice written question – answered at on 19 September 2023.

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Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether he has considered the potential merits of making it compulsory for convicted offenders to attend court for sentencing.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Offenders should be brought before the court to face the consequences of their crimes. That is why, on 30 August 2023, the Government announced its intention to introduce two new measures with the aim of compelling offenders to attend their sentencing hearings.

First, a new power for courts to order an offender to attend their sentencing hearing. Where an offender refuses to attend without a just excuse, they will be in breach of this order and will face a maximum of 24 months’ custody in addition to their sentence for the original offence. The measure will apply to all offenders convicted of an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Second, an express power in legislation for judges to require production of offenders for specific sentencing hearings. Alongside this we will make it clear in legislation that force can be used in appropriate circumstances by prison staff and prisoner escort and custody services (PECS) staff where they consider it necessary, reasonable, and proportionate to bring offenders to hearings.

We recognise that there will be circumstances where an offender’s presence may be distressing to victims and their families. Courts must have the discretion to do what is right in each case, and we anticipate that judges will consider victims’ and families’ wishes in making their decision.

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